Robert Elmer Millikan, 96, died Friday, Aug. 7, 2020 at around 2 p.m. at the Ravenna Good Samaritan Care Center.
Funeral services will be 2 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020 at Horner Lieske McBride & Kuhl Funeral Home, 2421 Avenue A, Kearney, with Pastor Jeff Zinnel officiating. Burial will follow the services at the Kearney Cemetery.
Visitation will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, at Horner Lieske McBride & Kuhl Funeral Home.
Robert E. Millikan was born Tuesday, July 8, 1924 in Hawarden, Sioux County, Iowa, in a house built by his father, Lloyd Millikan. Lloyd and his wife, Vivian (Cooper) Millikan, also gave Bobby 5 younger brothers and sisters: Richard, Marceline, Lois, Glenn, and Carol.
Following flooding on the Sioux River, Robert’s father was stricken with typhoid. As a child, Robert remembered being a support for his father as he learned to walk again, wanting to go fast, but limited to moving slow. The family raised much of their own food with a garden, fruit and nut trees, a dairy cow and hogs. They even rented vacant lots in town by trading produce so they could grow sweet corn and potatoes to sell. Their home was heated with coal, cobs, and firewood harvested along the river. Saturday nights usually found the family gathered around the radio, listening to “Hawaii Calls”.
From his youth, Bob was a capable builder. He remembered a Kentuckian, Mr. Hill, being able to bend wood, so he watched and learned the method. He observed the dragline at the gravel pit and built a working model for himself. He attended Hawarden Public Schools and there, in shop class made knick-knack shelves, a library table, and a bookcase that are still in use in a daughter’s home.
When Bob, now known as Slim, was 13, he purchased his first car, a 1930 Chevrolet 2 door sedan. The car dealer made him drive it out of the building, past pole supports. The next day, his father made sure he returned it! About the same time, Bob developed an interest in auto racing. There was a dirt track for Midget Car Racing just a few blocks from their home. He was a driver, mechanic, and spectator at various stages in his life in Sprint, Stock, Indy and Drag Racing. In 1951, he and Dean Wolfe attended the Indy 500 together. On July 4 that same year, he was in a racing accident in Norton, Kan., breaking his neck and nearly severing an ear. That did not cure his need for speed! He was familiar with tracks across the Midwest and frequently attended the Sprint Winter Nationals at Manzanita Speedway near Phoenix and the Sprint Car National Championships at Knoxville, Iowa. Two of the businesses he owned, Bomil Truck and Auto in Lexington and Truck Parts in Kearney were in line with his passion. In the 1960’s, he did a lot of business in muscle cars and especially the Corvette. He rebuilt and restored wrecks and “strippers”. At one time, he had a 20 X 60 building packed with Corvettes in various stages of repair.
As a teen, he worked for Harco Construction. He was injured in a construction accident, severing a tendon in the back on his leg. This resulted in so much recovery time, that he was unable to graduate with his class. It also caused him to be classified 4F, so he could not be in the military. Instead, he went to work with his father, driving truck in the building of military bases in South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. That career brought him to Kearney.
In 1946, he met and married Dorothy Elsie Hinkle, a young college freshman, when he was working for Oscar Rasmussen. They lived briefly on a farm south of Poole, Nebraska. He and Dorothy’s brother, Laurance Hinkle, a Navy Veteran, hired on with Peter Kiewit Construction and sailed to Guam on the hospital ship, Hope. There they unloaded cement and Russian lumber for buildings at Anderson North Field, Northwest Field, and Harmon Field of the 20th Air Division.
He and Dorothy moved to Lexington where he worked for Shorty Wilcox drilling wells. During that time, he built two houses out of a P.O.W. barracks building from Atlanta, Nebraska. It was to one of those homes, that Slim and Dorothy welcomed their daughters, Joan in 1948 and Ann in 1952.
In Lexington, he also worked for Platte Valley Buick under Loton Todd and Sam Chandler. He later ran a Conoco Service Station, and worked for R.E.A, building houses on the side (nine total in Lexington) and his business building. At Bomil Truck and Auto, he belonged to a parts hot line, making friends from several states. Several of the friends from his muscle car/Corvette days stayed in contact with him to the end of his life.
In 1977, he married Esperanza Belderol in the Philippines.
After selling Bomil, he moved to Kearney in 1979 and built Truck Parts, which he later also sold to the Herrington family.
In 1984, he and Esperanza moved to Imperial Beach, California, where they resided for a few months before returning to Kearney. In his retirement, he built two houses along Highway 44, south of Kearney, near where Awari Dunes Golf Course is now located.
The most important event in Bob’s life was his decision to accept Christ as his personal savior. He and his granddaughter, Regan, were baptized in a joint ceremony at Immanuel Baptist Church. He later attended 56th Street Baptist and enjoyed the Believer’s Fellowship there.
In 2011, he had cancer surgery, coinciding with the placement of his wife in a secure memory care facility. He stayed with his daughter in Ravenna for a few months following the cancer surgery and subsequent cataract surgeries. He then returned to the “ranch” south of Kearney but gave up driving because of macular degeneration. In April of 2013, he moved to a little house in Ravenna. While in Ravenna, he attended the Congregational Church and enjoyed the people he met at the Senior Center.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Vivian in 1987 and Lloyd in 1995; his sister, Carol; brother, Richard; and sister, Lois. His first wife, Dorothy Millikan preceded him in death on December 31, 2012. Esperanza preceded him in death by two weeks and one day.
He is survived by his sister, Marceline Garner of Cameron, Mo.; a brother, Glenn (Nancy) Millikan of Gallatin, Mo; two daughters, Joan (Galen) Morris of Lexington and Ann Payne of Ravenna. Also left to mourn his passing are his grandchildren, Lanny (Ladina) Morris of Grand Island, Regan (Jason) Tilley of Wamego, KS., Jeremy Morris and Sean Payne both of Ravenna; great-grandchildren, Miranda, Ethan, Callista, Andrew, Ryan, Cassandra, Caleb, and Jonah; great-great-grandchildren, Starla, Ember, and Sapphira; also honorary grandchildren, Lara (Dennis) Norris and David (Amy) Weddel and their children of Texas; and special friends, Don (Tish) Trembly of Peculiar, Mo.
Memorials are suggested to the family to be designated later. Please visit www.hlmkfuneral.com to leave a tribute or message of condolence.
Horner Lieske McBride and Kuhl Funeral and Cremation Services are in charge of arrangements.
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